Here are the Positions Broncos are Likely to Prioritize at Pick 15 in the Draft
A few weeks ago, I wrote about the Denver Broncos' 2019 and 2020 draft classes and how they could go down as two of the best of John Elway's tenure as general manager.
There were a few people who remarked about the piece, in which I talked about expectations for draft picks based on the round they are selected, and why that's a reason not to take a wide receiver in the first round of the 2020 draft.
I can understand that to a point, but it's not quite that simple. The player you select in each round depends a lot on how the overall board takes shape, the quality of players available, and exactly what the team needs.
You certainly want to use first-round picks on players who will be part of the long-term picture, but that doesn't mean you should hem yourself into focusing on a particular position, or excluding too many, because that's when you start reaching for players, especially if you are unable to trade down.
The better way to approach the draft is to look at the big picture, regarding your roster as it stands going into the new league year, then how it looks after you are finished with most the NFL free agency period. From there, you can determine what makes the most sense in the draft, rather than reaching for a player because you think one need is greater than the others.
Let's consider each position on the Broncos roster and figure out what the Broncos really need.
Quarterback: This one is obvious — the Broncos have their starter in Drew Lock, but need a backup. Obviously, you aren't taking a quarterback in the first two rounds to be a backup for a QB who just finished his rookie season and shows promise to be the long-term guy. A third-round pick might be justified if there's a player you simply can't pass up, but day three would be the better time to find a QB to draft.
Running Back: I wouldn't take one in the first round because what the Broncos need is a back who complements Phillip Lindsay. There's also a chance that Royce Freeman can get back on track next season. Again, I think day three is the best time to draft a running back for what the Broncos need, but I wouldn't rule out a third-round pick.
Wide Receiver: Obviously, you don't want to draft a receiver in the mold of Courtland Sutton, because that'd be a waste of a pick. You probably don't want to draft a pure slot receiver, either, because there's a chance DaeSean Hamilton could be that player. However, a receiver who brings a speed element is something you have to consider. You don't have to lock yourself into that pick, but if a receiver in that mold is there, you should consider it if that's the best available player.
Tight End: This one is easy — there's no need to draft a tight end early. You might consider a day-three option who is an upgrade over other depth players, but that's it.
Offensive Tackle: I understand the desire to get another offensive tackle as soon as possible. However, bear in mind that the best three options — and likely the only ones worth an early first-round pick — could be gone because several teams need OTs, too. You don't want to reach for a player because you are so intent on filling a need. Certainly, you take one of the top-3 options if one of them falls down the board, but if they're gone, you need to consider other positions. A day-two pick needs to be used on an OT, though, and that might actually be the best time to get one because there are options who could become starters after a year of development.
Interior O-Line: Some will tell you not to bother taking this position in the first round, but I don't believe that's correct. This is particularly true with the Broncos drafting No. 15 overall, at which point it makes more sense to look at guards, or perhaps a center. However, that all depends on the quality of players available at that point. If you don't draft one in the first round, you should certainly try to get one by day three to help your depth.
Defensive Line: This is a position I think more Broncos fans should consider. While one would hope the Broncos get either Derek Wolfe or Shelby Harris re-signed, having another defensive lineman in the fold would be ideal. I don't know if one will be worth taking in the first round, but it's a position to keep an eye on during day two.
Edge Rusher: Because Bradley Chubb will be back, Von Miller is still playing well and Malik Reed is good depth, you aren't looking to take an edge rusher early. Day three is when I would consider available options, but you definitely don't take one in the first round. I'd avoid the second round, too, but the third round may make sense if the value is too good to pass up.
Off-Ball Linebacker: No. 15 overall is a good spot to consider off-ball linebackers, depending on how the board takes shape. The Broncos need to draft one at some point, given that Todd Davis enters the final year of his contract.
Cornerback: If the board favors taking a cornerback at No. 15 overall, then you have to consider it. You may even want to go this route if you add a cornerback in free agency. Remember that Bryce Callahan is only under contract for the next two seasons (and could be cut after 2020 once his guaranteed money runs out) and everyone else you have on the roster is a depth player at best. If you don't take one in the first round, you need to draft at least one later on.
Safety: Though the Broncos have made it clear they want to extend Justin Simmons, that doesn't mean safety is off the table in the first round. Remember that Kareem Jackson's deal runs out after two more seasons, so if a safety in the mold of Jackson is worth the No. 15 overall pick, I'd draft him. If the best safety is similar to Simmons, you can pass. Again, safety is a position the Broncos should consider drafting at some point to help their depth.
Boiling it Down
So sticking with the first round, the positions that should be considered are wide receiver with speed, offensive tackle, interior offensive line, defensive line, off-ball linebacker, cornerback and a safety in the mold of Jackson. All these options should at least be on the table and who the Broncos draft depends both on free agency and how the draft board falls.
Trading up is an option, but I agree with those who say the Broncos should strive to keep their picks because they need to improve depth. Trading down can be considered, but don't do it just to do it. If you don't get a good offer to trade down, stick to your draft board, as long as you don't reach for whatever you think is the biggest need.
So what about the long-term picture if your picks work out as expected? You simply need to do the best possible job of extending players, while using the draft to fill other needs.
There may be an ideal way to build a team, in terms of the money you commit to each position, but you always want to keep the players who are worth keeping, while letting others depart and, once free agency is done, using the draft to replenish whatever you lost.
The trick to always remember is to not paint yourself into a corner and be forced into taking a particular position. Figure out what positions you shouldn't focus on early, but keep specifics in mind about positions as necessary, and that's going to give you the best way to form your draft board and, therefore, give you the best chance at drafting the right player.